Khuri: Knowledge and transparency are the vaccines for rumors that have accompanied the coronavirus pandemic

29 Jul 2020


Jordan Media Institute – Amman


Dr. Najwa Khuri, a consultant of the National Center for Security and Crises Management and a member of the National Epidemics Committee, urged journalists and graduate students in media to look for medical information in reliable sources, so as to avoid “pushing information” without regard to its accuracy. She stressed that knowledge and transparency are the vaccine for confronting this phenomenon of rumors and misinformation. 


On Tuesday, Khuri addressed visitors and Jordan Media Institute (JMI) students about the rumors and conspiracy theories that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, in an event that was organized in collaboration with the Agence Française de Coopération Médias and as part of the EU Support to Jordanian Democratic Institutions and Development program.


Khuri highlighted the delicate role that the media can play by using accurate, technical terminology when referring to issues of public health which affect people’s lives - given that “ignorance” of trustworthy information constituted the main reason for the spread of the epidemic and its impact on every aspect of life. The lack of detailed knowledge about the virus drove its spread around the world in just several days and - along with the pandemic itself - brought about a massive and troublesome flow of sometimes inaccurate information. Khuri emphasized that the vaccine for any epidemic is the kind of knowledge and openness which enables people to manage the dangers and risks brought on by the disease.  


In this regard, Khuri noted that the rumors had proliferated in the very moment at which deaths caused by the virus began to rise. She suggested that political leaders were a factor in the creation and promotion of these rumors, as they sought to exploit the general lack of accurate information in responding to questions raised by the coronavirus pandemic.  


Dana Al-Emam of the Akeed Media Credibility Monitor said that the rumors had been most prevalent amid the entry of the virus into Jordan and began to subside gradually thereafter. At the time, social media had been by the far the largest source of those rumors, according to what Akeed documented.  


Khuri  emphasized that Jordan’s transparency in confronting the virus had reassured citizens, and that its adoption of strict precautionary measures prevented the kingdom from seeing the same grave numbers of infection and death that countries around the region are now facing.  However, according to Khuri, this does not mean the danger is over, and there is still a general need to respect preventative measures given that “the risk remains.” 


In response to students’ questions about the role of the National Epidemics Committee in the crisis, Khuri explained that it is an advisory body comprised of public health and disease experts, and makes detailed decisions on the basis of consensus among them. Such decisions are not binding until the government has deemed them appropriate, after having taken other matters into consideration. She also indicated that the media placed a greater burden on the Committee than it could bear, as it has been focused exclusively on researching scientific information about the coronavirus and issuing recommendations for treating the situation. 


With regard to the issue of Jordanians living abroad, the reopening of the airport, and the danger of a second wave of the epidemic, Khuri clarified that until there is a vaccine for the virus, movement through airports or border crossings will not be completely safe. Hence, “because remaining closed is impossible,” adherence to preventive measures will continue to be necessary. Khuri added that the royal decree repatriating Jordanians living abroad in Wuhan and countries afflicted by the virus was prudent and wise because it prioritized the safety of Jordanians above all.